The story was updated on 11/15 to reflect recent updates.
At least one UST student was present at the Travis Scott Astroworld music festival in Houston last Friday which left ten dead and hundreds injured.
Senior general business major Karina Alaniz was among the packed crowd of thousands waiting for Scott’s performance. A couple of minutes after his set began, she felt things were starting to take a turn for the worse.
“I remember just looking at my friend and thinking, ‘We need to get out of here,’” Alaniz remembers.
“I was in fight-or-flight mode.”
Alaniz attended the concert with four other people who got separated as the crowd began to surge.
She said she was left with only one of her friends in what felt like a “wave” of people.
Corey Hodges, a University of Houston alumnus, witnessed this wave from a distance. “All of the sudden there’s this huge rush wave of people that were moving forward, in an area that was already packed,” he said.
“There was no place to move.”
From where he was standing, Hodges said he noticed the 12-foot gate separating the VIP area at the front from the general audience had been overrun. This opened room for the already-dense audience to move forward.
“Everybody started pushing and shoving,” Alaniz said, “and because everybody was pressed together, everyone was forced to move in the same direction as everyone else because there was just no space to turn, even if you wanted to.”
Alaniz said she and her friend were in the middle of the audience when the show began and attempted to get out as soon as possible by pushing those behind her while yelling to let them out.
But that wasn’t enough for an easy exit.
“The people were not making way. I would look them straight in the eye and ask them if they could please just let us out, and they would just shrug their shoulders,” Alaniz said.
“It was a really scary feeling, and I remember feeling that if me and my friend didn’t get out of there, we were going to die.”
Hodges, who was also farther back during the performance remembers his growing sense of incredulity.
“My friend points out that there are kids climbing the scaffolding with the speaker in the back,” he said.
“They were 20 feet in the air. We keep thinking security is going to get them down, but security never comes, and they are up there the entire show.”
After managing to get safely out of the crowd, Alaniz said that she and her friend opted to watch the rest of Scott’s performance on a titantron screen in a smaller group away from the main audience. Alaniz said that while there, she saw others struggling to leave and get help.
She met a girl who had escaped barefoot, as the crowd was too packed for her to retrieve her shoes from the ground.
“I also saw a guy pull out another man and this man passed out,” Alaniz said. “The guy laid him by a tree and then took him to the medical tent.”
Hodges also witnessed someone being pulled from the crowd and began to receive CPR.
“He couldn’t be more than 18 or 19 years old. His body was lifeless,” Hodges said.
“His friends are freaking out, they look scared.” Based on Hodges’ description, the young man was not one of the nine people who died because of the concert.
According to Alaniz, the crowd’s behavior was nothing new for a Scott concert.
Scott is being accused of encouraging fans to sneak into the festival earlier this year in a tweet that has since been deleted from his account. A promotional video for this year’s concert also appears to encourage attendees to break through gates and surge into the venue.
“Travis literally promoted this,” Alaniz said.
“I think that his encouragement got into people’s heads, and it resulted in it ending in such a terrible way.”
Moments before Scott was to take the stage on Friday, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner met with the rapper and his head of security to express his worry about public safety at the festival, according to an HPD tweet.
“In my 31 years of law enforcement I have never seen a time with more challenges facing citizens of all ages, to include [sic] a global pandemic and social tension throughout the nation,” Finner’s tweet reads.
“I asked Travis Scott and his team to work with HPD for all events over the weekend and to be mindful of his team’s social media messaging on any unscheduled events.”
For UST’s Alaniz, Travis is ultimately at fault.
“I do kind of blame him,” she said.
“I feel like he could have stopped the show if he wanted to.”
According to a Facebook post by Ivan Navarro, the new director for counseling and wellness for student wellbeing, he “…is strongly encouraging any [UST] student who is suffering any form of distress related to the Astroworld Fest tragedy to reach out to our counselors for professional support.” This can be done by calling and leaving a voicemail at (713) 525-3162 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, including your name and contact information.